Gifts come in many forms: Wrapped in boxes, sealed in envelopes, and delivered by florists. They usually commemorate some special occasion and are rarely a surprise and even more rarely are they the right "size" or "color." Hence the uncomfortable and awkward customs of re-gifting, store returns, and cluttered closet shelves.
But every so once in a while a gift comes unexpectedly and that in itself is a delight. And on even more rare occasions, the gift itself is a source of profound value and pleasure.
I recently made a new friend at a quiet little bar on 10th Avenue, the appropriately named Xth Avenue Lounge. Ken and I had met through my blog, discovered we were both creatures of Hell's Kitchen and shared several common interests — Broadway and Bush-hating among them — and agreed to meet for drinks.
Ken gave me a surprise gift to commemorate our meeting. It was a small thing, a CD that he had produced himself, a recording of an obscure Broadway show from the early 60s, All-American. I vaguely recalled that it had been a flop. But I already knew that Ken is one of the leading experts on Broadway history so my interest was piqued. There had to be something special about it, and boy was there ever.
As it turned out, the CD is one of the most fascinating, entertaining, and engaging gifts I've ever received (and that's a bold statement from a man of a certain age who has survived the gift giving assaults of many a clever suitor, confused friend, and misguided relative.)
In fact, Ken's gift is up there with some of my all-time favorite gifts including my Santos de Cartier, my platinum fountain pen, a home-made Sacher Torte shipped all the way from Vienna and a night with a particular porn star.
So what's the big deal about an original cast recording of an obscure Broadway flop? The recording is even more original than an original Broadway cast recording and even includes several songs that never made it to the stage.
In fact, it's an astonishing and illuminating window into a world that has all but disappeared. Ken and his associates have acquired the rights to several Live Backers Audition sessions from the Golden Age of Broadway (1943-1968) and All-American is the first to be released.